Rabbinical College considers ordaining interfaith rabbis as Jewish intermarriages rise
Officials at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College may reconsider laws that prohibit admission or ordination to Jews in interfaith relationships.
It’s a firm policy among most rabbinical colleges in the US that those who are in interfaith relationships may not be admitted or ordained. While the number of interfaith couples across a number of denominations is growing steadily, Jews in interfaith relationships are basically excluded from pursuing a faith-related career such as rabbi or teacher. Officials at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC), responsible for ordaining rabbis for each of its congregations, have cast a vote in favor of reconsidering their standards of admission. The officials at the college have emphasized that the vote only means they will reconsider the policy, and that the final outcome is not yet decided.
Some opponents of changing the policy have expressed concerns for decreased expectations for leaders, and accused the RRC of simply trying to increase their pool of applicants. The Reconstructionist branch of Judaism has faced opposition for implementing more progressive policies than are approved of by the more traditional Conservative denomination, including the ordination of gay and female rabbis, officiating for same-sex marriages and welcoming congregants in interfaith relationships. Various Reconstructionist congregations practice different levels of observance, but all share a concept of Judaism being not only a religion, but also a personal and community identity.
Jews have the highest likelihood of any religion of marrying outside their faith; almost 60% of Jews who marry today will marry a non-Jew. Of those, only one in five say they are raising their children to be Jewish, as opposed to nearly every Jewish couple (96%) raising their children in the faith. Conservative Jewish leaders worry that ordaining rabbis in interfaith relationships will be seen as a tacit endorsement of the practice; such an endorsement could result in further reduction of those who identify as religious Jews.